PERRYSBURG - "Around the World in Eight Plates" is a chance for some of the best students in the Culinary Arts programs at Penta Career Center to show folks what they've got.
|AnaPaula Llanas poses with her Mexican churros and hot chocolate Monday afternoon at Penta Career Center. (Photos: Shane Hughes/Sentinel-Tribune)
For AnaPaula Llanas, a junior from Bowling Green High School, that means a slightly-decadent sweet treat or two to top off a meal that will surely prove a memorable gastronomic experience for those lucky enough to be present.
The "Eight Plates" annual scholarship dinner and silent auction, slated for Nov. 21 at 6 p.m., will be held in the Culinary Connection restaurant on the Penta campus, 9301 Buck Road.
Llanas' contribution will be traditional hot chocolate and churros from Mexico.
The internationally-themed menu will begin with both red and sparkling white Sangria as well as appetizers from Spain including fried paella, queso blanco with fig compote, golden gazpacho, and eggplant and chorizo rollatini. The eight-course meal that follows includes: steamed pork belly bun from South Korea: branzino and olive oil confit from Greece; crispy tofu and ginger ice tea from China; lobster mac from the New England area of the United States; shepherd's pie, bangers and mash from the United Kingdom; gorgonzola, smoked mozzarella and parmesan gelato from Italy; the churros and hot chocolate; plus assorted chocolates from Belgium.
Llanas defines churros as "a fried bread dessert" with which all Mexicans are familiar. "They are made for any big gathering. You'd find them at carnivals and they're a basic Mexican dessert. You deep-fry dough and it's topped with cinnamon and sugar."
As for the hot chocolate, it's different from the U.S. version in that it's made with Mexican sweet chocolate. "It has a richer, more sweet flavor."
Mexican sweet chocolate is available locally. "Nestle makes a brand called Abuelita which you can find at Kroger's, for example." Or, "for a more authentic taste, they make it downtown at San Marcos; they sell it there," Llanas said, referring to the Mexican supermarket at 235 Broadway St. in Toledo.
Llanas, who was born in Bowling Green, spent much of her childhood in Beavercreek and moved back to BG in time for her sophomore year.
Her Bowling Green grandmother, Victoria Llanas, become her cultural and culinary touchstone.
"Every time I'd come to visit she'd teach me everything she could about cooking," AnaPaula notes. It was a ritual they began when she was no more than 7 years old.
Grandma Victoria, now deceased, was a Cook's Corner subject herself during the very first year of column. On July 22, 2006 she shared her recipe for chicken enchilada casserole, a dish AnaPaula remembers well.
But her grandmother took AnaPaula beyond the level of making single dishes.
"She taught just how -when you're making authentic Mexican food - it's all about time management. When you're waiting for your tortillas," for example, "you can also be heating up the rice and beans."
To this day, AnaPaula Llanas still enjoys cooking Mexican food, although "I'm more focused on Italian, currently. I make my homemade ravioli" which has gotten enthusiastic reviews from her siblings, two younger brothers and an older sister.
It's a dish she learned how to make at school.
"Penta's a great opportunity for me," Llanas noted. "I really appreciate being accepted by the program."
Although only 16 years old, she's already got her first restaurant job. "I actually work at McDonald's on Wooster Street."
Llanas knows she wants to go to culinary school after graduation. "I aspire to be a head chef at a restaurant."
The upcoming "Around the World in Eight Plates" dinner is a way to help students like Llanas reach those goals.
Cost of the dinner is $75 per person and proceeds benefit a scholarship fund for culinary students. In addition, dollars raised in the silent auction benefit the Hirzel Scholarship Fund which provides Penta seniors with scholarships towards post-secondary tuition or tools needed for employment.
The students are working together with instructors Chefs Jim Rhegness, Janea Makowski and Sarah Deland to prepare the dishes.
Each student will prepare enough food to serve 50 or more people.
For her part, Llanas plans to produce picture-perfect churros.
The recipe, as shown on this page, calls for either butter or margarine, and lists cinnamon as optional.
"I like to use butter and I do use cinnamon," said Llanas.
She encourages others to try the recipe at home. "It's not hard at all. I'd give it a four" on a scale of 1 to 10.
She offers one caution.
"When you mix in your flour, make sure your heat is down. That way you're not scorching it."
Eight Plates dinner reservations are required by Friday. To make a reservation, call Elizabeth Wray at Penta, at 419-661-6486.
Penta's 16 school districts include BG, Eastwood, Elmwood, North Baltimore, Northwood, Otsego, Perrysburg, Rossford, Lake, Maumee, Anthony Wayne and Woodmore.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
Serves: 8 to 12 churros
1 cup water
½ cup butter or margarine
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 eggs, beaten
Vegetable oil, for frying
¼ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon, optional
To make the churro dough: Combine 1 cup of water with the butter or margarine and the salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Using a wooden spoon, stir in flour. Reduce the heat to low and stir vigorously until the mixture forms a ball, about 1 minute. Remove the dough from the heat and, while stirring constantly, gradually beat the eggs into the dough.
Heat about 2 inches of oil in a heavy, high-sided pot over medium-high heat until the oil reaches 360 degrees F. Mix the sugar with the cinnamon on a plate and reserve.
Meanwhile, spoon the churro into a pastry bag fitted with a large tip. Squeeze a 4-inch strip of dough into the hot oil. Repeat, frying 3 or 4 strips at a time. Fry the churros, turning them once, until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer the cooked churros to a plate lined with paper towels to drain.
When the churros are just cool enough to handle, roll them in the cinnamon-sugar (in Spain churros are simply rolled in sugar.)
Mexican hot chocolate
Serves: Two cups
3 cups (500 ml) whole milk
Pinch of salt
3 ounces (85 grams) Mexican sweet chocolate, chopped
In a medium saucepan, heat the milk with the cocoa powder and salt, whisking constantly until it comes to a full boil.
Remove from heat and add the chocolate, whisking gently until it’s completely melted. If desired, blend the mixture with an immersion blender until smooth.